Once by Robert Beveridge

I: once upon a time I could control myself

 

I was good

back in the old days

at being nice to people

and metering my rhymes.

I thought the world

was a presidential speech

 

but hate burns hard

these days like diamonds

where once I had eyes

the lines are liberated

meters from within

 

rhythm of pained

nerves thrum

their orchestrations

 

metabolism of craving

dictates the direction

of my pen

 

once upon a time

I could control myself

but now I let

Polyhymnia focus

herself through me

 

II: once upon a time I could ruin myself

 

Marijuana sonnets

and cocaine canzones

were beautiful

intensity unmatched

by the best of Whitman

or Dickey in those days

 

I still don’t know

why I quit

but those nights I lie

alone in a double bed

every tear that drips

from my earlobes wishes

for one more pill

pantoum, one last

acid seizan

 

III: once upon a time I could love myself

 

You, all of you,

remember how good they were,

the days of gin and poppies

when we were all in love

with the world

 

but you’ve heard the stories

you watch the news

murder rape

so much terrorism

it’s betting boring now

 

some still profess

to be shocked

every time a young minority

make in a colored bandana

is wheeled into an LA emergency room

 

and some still think

that words can be obscene

in that discolored world

 

after the alcohol

and drug fog dissipated

and we saw

what the world

really had to offer

 

the only course

that could keep us alive

was cynical desensitization

 

IV: once upon a time I could love you

 

And so here we stand

the desensitized

the cynical

wish for drug fogs

and poems of flowers

and love

 

but we’ve been exposed

to high-priced hookers in alleyways

and abortions screaming

Jesus through the subway

 

we’ve seen too many

good relationships

lie twisted as the last

of their heroin-wracked blood

spills onto the bathroom floor

 

if you still think you’re shocked

you can turn away

 

but we see what’s real

and it’ll drive us crazy

unless we try to make it art.

 

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